Tags Posts tagged with "Cold Spring Harbor"

Cold Spring Harbor

The Wading River Marsh Preserve is just one of several Long Island habitats protected and maintained by the Nature Conservancy. Photo by Kyle Barr

If one is looking hard for the silver linings about the ongoing pandemic, it may be that residents seem to be returning to nature, filling up Long Island’s public parks and preserves in droves.

The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental nonprofit that has offices in Cold Spring Harbor, helps protect hundreds of nature preserves around the world. The organization has many on Long Island, including six on the North Shore such as Uplands Farm Nature Sanctuary in Cold Spring Harbor, the David Weld Sanctuary in Nissequogue and Wading River Marsh Preserve in Wading River. Those acres of protected land, according to conservancy officials, have seen a huge uptick in visitors over the past several months.

Mat Levine, the director of stewardship for the conservancy’s New York state branch, said that in a normal year, they could have somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000 visitors annually statewide. Since the start of spring into summer, they saw a jump of three times as many people visiting their nature preserves. While that has slowed down as of late, partially because of incoming cool weather and a slackening of COVID-19 restrictions, Levine said the number of visitors could say something about people’s desire to relieve stress using their own local natural environment.

“It was, it still is a tough time for a lot of people,” the New York stewardship director said. “People use nature to get a real mental and physical benefit.”

The Wading River Marsh Preserve is just one of several Long Island habitats protected and maintained by the Nature Conservancy. Photo by Kyle Barr

Jeremy Samuelson, director of the Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island, also run by the conservancy, said the 2,000-acre parcel normally receives around 30,000 visitors a year. With the pandemic, they were seeing two to three times their normal load. 

Employees on preserves were deemed essential workers back when everything started to close down in mid-March. The increased visitorship also meant the preserve and its employees had to work more toward managing the flow of people, giving them access and information, and maintaining the trails, all while trying to keep people safe.

“The challenge is in keeping our team members and visitors safe,” Samuelson said. “The way I describe it we are running a public interfacing institution, so we’ve had to like everybody else think about what we need to put more resources in this time, so we can be of service.”

Even with the new flow of visitors, the preserve director said they didn’t try to keep anyone away.

“Our goal is to get people to fall in love with nature, so as long as we can offer these facilities that balances welcoming people with making sure we’re taking care of natural resources, we should be throwing the door open wide,” he said. 

In March, once theaters, restaurants, concert halls bars and so many other places for entertainment were closing down, Levine said people started coming by as the preserves were “one of the few places left open.” The hope, he said, is that more people are turning their attention to their local environment, and even larger environmental goals. 

Avalon Nature Preserve in Stony Brook and St. James also saw an increase in visitors at the start of the pandemic, according to Park Director Katharine Griffiths. Many of those were people who had never come
through before. 

Many people simply had nowhere else to go but visit their local parks, and Griffiths was glad to see new interest in the preserve. However, since things have opened up, she said the number of visitors are declining back down to where they were before the pandemic. 

Griffiths said she has always argued for people to go back to nature, to get off their devices and experience the outdoors, but for her it’s hard to tell if the pandemic will be this large change in people’s attitudes. 

“I guess we’ll see,” she said. “I do think this situation has given some people the opportunity to do something they normally wouldn’t have done.”

Back in June, The Nature Conservancy, along with Los Angeles-based public opinion research firm FM3, did a survey of 600 New York voters where 70% said the pandemic recovery offers an opportunity to better plan for climate change. Even more said they would want to give more New Yorkers easier access to public parks and preserves. 

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said state parks and preserves have also seen a “widespread pattern” of increased usage. Even in the local area, Englebright, who currently chairs the state Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation, has seen more people stopping by on Gnarled Hollow Road to use the Setauket to Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. 

“Our investment in local parks and the environment seems to be paying off,” he said. “I think [these parks] will continue to be used at a much higher level than before.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is the chair of the Environment, Parks & Agriculture committee. She said county parks usage is definitely up, though there are many parks and trails that have no way to record the number of visitors. However, at the same time, outdoor activities also seem to be on the rise, as permits for activities like archery are up close to 30%. 

For many of these places that were relatively underutilized, the increased attention can be a boon. However, for other outdoor environments that already see heavy use, there have been issues. McAllister County Park in Belle Terre has had residents complaining as the number of cars looking to park in the small lot on Anchorage Road has far exceeded the space available for them. Other more widely used parks have experienced an increase in parking problems and litter.

But for those who champion local parks and the environment, seeing this move toward nature can only be a positive in the future.

“There’s no question, people have been looking for places to escape stress, places that are safe, distanced and outdoors,” Hahn said. 

A scene from a previous Witches Night Out event before the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo from Lucky to Live Here Realty

Witches, grab your broomsticks and head to Cold Spring Harbor later this month for a weeklong shopping crawl — just make sure you bring a mask to wear along with your hat.
What is usually one night on Main Street where witches come out to dine, shop and strut, Lucky to Live Here Realty, coordinators of the event, decided to make it a weeklong event to support small business amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
For more than 10 years, Witches Night Out would gather thousands of witches, warlocks and non-magical shoppers to the town for one night of deals and promotions as a way to bring the community together and encourage local shopping.
“We were debating if we should do it or not,” Ashley Allegra, marketing coordinator for the Cold Spring Harbor real estate agency said. “We really wanted to help the businesses on Main Street, and this was something we could do safely.”
So instead of hosting the Witches Night Out, they spread out the event to a weeklong spree coined Witches Week.
Allegra said that by having witchy shoppers come throughout a several-day span was safer than congregating everyone into one night and implement more social distancing.
“It’s something different that gets people out and do something,” she said.
Witches Week will take place Oct. 27 through Oct. 30, and about 30 different businesses will be partaking in the festivities. Each store will have discounts and deals to bring customers in. Allegra added there will be a raffle with three winners at the end of the event, with chances to win a gift basket filled with the shops’ gift cards.
And on top of that, something different compared to past years, Witches Week will host a witch scavenger hunt. Each shop and restaurant will have several witches hidden indoors and customers can try to find them. The number of witches per shop is available on the Lucky to Live Here website.
“It’s a fun way to support the community and the local businesses of Cold Spring Harbor Main Street,” Allegra said.
Vita Scaturro, chairwoman of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, agreed. She said that by shopping online and through e-commerce, small businesses cannot survive. “It’s a different experience because you have direct customer service, you can see and touch the items,” she said. “It’s imperative to support them.”

File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a man in Cold Spring Harbor Thursday morning.

Jason Mocte-Zuma was operating a 2013 Honda Civic sedan northbound on Harbor Road when his vehicle struck a utility pole and overturned at approximately 11 a.m. Mocte-Zuma, 21, of Huntington Station, was transported by Cold Spring Harbor Rescue to Huntington Hospital where he was pronounced dead. There were no passengers in the vehicle.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information on the crash is asked to contact the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252.

Meet the valedictorians, salutatorians from Cold Spring Harbor, Elwood, Harborfields, Northport and Huntington school districts

Huntington High School held its 157th commencement exercises June 22. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Across the Town of Huntington, hundreds of graduates stepped forward to receive their high school diplomas this week. Among the graduates are those who have excelled academically, achieving consistently high marks to rise top of their class to earn the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian.

Huntington High School Valedictorian Aidan Forbes. Photo from Huntington school district

Huntington High School

Aidan Forbes has been named valedictorian of Huntington High School’s Class of 2018. Sebastian Stamatatos is this year’s salutatorian. The spectacular pair has enjoyed exceptional four-year runs packed with academic and co-curricular success.

“I am extremely proud to be named valedictorian,” Forbes said. “It is the culmination of years of hard work and I couldn’t be happier.”

Forbes and Stamatatos both gave addresses at Huntington’s 157th commencement exercises June 22 in Blue Devil’s athletic stadium.

Huntington High School Salutatorian Sebastian Stamatatos. Photo from Huntington school district

“Aidan is an outstanding student and a very well rounded young man,” Huntington Principal Brenden Cusack said. “His years of hard work have paid off and I am so very happy for him. Sebastian is to be commended as well for this outstanding accomplishment, which apparently has become a family trait.”

Huntington’s top two seniors have captured the respect and admiration of their classmates and teachers. Their transcripts are filled with the most challenging courses the school district offers.

“Aidan and Sebastian have both achieved at the highest of levels academically and have taken complete advantage of all that the district has to offer,” Huntington Superintendent James Polansky said. “As importantly, they recognize the value of service and continue to represent our school community in the finest manner  possible. It will soon be time for them to further share their gifts with the world beyond Huntington. I wish them and their families the heartiest of congratulations and all the best moving forward.”

Northport High School Valedictorian Daniel O’Connor. Photo from Northport-East Northport school district

Northport High School

Daniel O’Connor is Northport High School’s 2018  valedictorian and said by school officials to be a shining example of the district’s mission— “excellence in all areas without exception” — has put hard work and effort into his high school career.

In addition to being involved extracurricular activities and running cross-country, he has been named an AP Scholar with Distinction, a National Merit Commended Scholar, a 2018 Town of Huntington Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and more. He will be attending Northeastern University in pursuit of a computer engineering degree this fall.

Northport High School Salutatorian Nicholas Holfester. Photo from Northport-East Northport school district

Northport High School salutatorian Nicholas Holfester’s passion for learning and internal drive has propelled him toward excellence throughout his high school career, according to school officials.

Even with a rigorous course load Holfester has excelled and received many awards and honors, including being named a National Merit Commended Scholar, a Rensselaer Medal winner and more. He will be attending the University of Notre Dame to study engineering in the fall.

Harborfields High School

Harborfields High School Valedictorian Emma Johnston. Photo from Harborfields school district

Harborfields’s valedictorian Emma Johnston, who will be attending Brandeis University to study neuroscience in the fall, had a successful high school career.

Along with being involved in many extracurricular activities, Johnston has received many academic awards and honors, such as being named a National Merit Finalist and a National AP Scholar.

Harborfields’ Class of 2018 salutatorian Sarah Katz led a well-rounded and successful high school career. Headedto either the University of Californiaor Berkley to dual major in business and engineering.

Harborfields High School Salutatorian Sarah Katz. Photo from Harborfields school district


She has been awarded many awards and honors, such as Rensselaer Medal Award Outstanding Academic Achievement in Study of Mathematics and Science, awards of academic excellence in English, French and art, and more.

Elwood-John H. Glenn High School

Elwood-John H. Glenn’s Valedictorian Kathryn Browne had a rigorous high school career, excelling in both academics and extracurricular activities. She was named a New York State Scholar Athlete all four years and was awarded multiple academic distinctions, including the Bausch & Lomb Honorary
Science Award.

John H. Glenn High School Valedictorian Katherine Browne. Photo from Elwood school district

She participated in multiple clubs where she assumed mentoring and leadership roles, and also enjoyed involvement in both the varsity track and soccer. Browne will be attending Boston College in the fall, where she plans on studying nursing.

Along with being at the top of her class, Elwood-John H. Glenn salutatorian Catherine Ordonoz-Reyes has been pursuing the family tradition of nursing throughout her high school career—and is a certified nursing assistant.

John H. Glenn High School Salutatorian Catherine Reyes-Ordonoz. Photo from Elwood school district

Along with her rigorous dedication to excellence in her studies, Ordonoz-Reyes has been an active member of her school and community. She has received academic distinctions, such as the National Academy for Future Physicians and Medical Scientist Award of Excellence. She will be attending LIU Post on a full scholarship to study nursing.

Editor’s note: Cold Spring Harbor High School does not formally recognize a valedictorian or salutatorian, but rather has a tradition of speeches given by reflection speakers with four to nine individuals selected each year. 

17-foot long World Trade Center steel beam is focal point of monument remembering 9/11 victims

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A 17-foot World Trade Center steel beam stand in Cold Spring Harbor, more than 35 miles from New York City, as a solemn reminder of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.

The Cold Spring Harbor Volunteer Fire Department officially dedicated its 9/11 memorial in Fireman’s Park, directly across from its headquarters at 2 Main Street, in a June 16 ceremony. More than 2,750 people were killed in the terrorist attacks, which includes 42 residents from the Town of Huntington.

“We will never forget those who perished on 9/11,” said Thomas Buchta, chairman of the fire department’s 9/11 Committee. “We will remember the sacrifices of those who rushed into the building to fight the fires, to rescue those who were trapped, and the thousands of people who simple went to work that morning and never returned home.”

“[Peter Martin] left behind his wife and two young sons, but he also left behind a legacy. ”
– Chad Lupinacci

Two fire department members, brothers Dan and John Martin, are following in the footsteps of their father, Peter Martin, who died on 9/11. Peter Martin served as a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York’s Rescue 2 in Brooklyn. He was 43.

“He left behind his wife and two young sons, but he also left behind a legacy,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “He loved his occupation and left a record of how many fires he fought over the years and many stories to tell.”

Martin also served as a volunteer firefighter in the Miller Place Fire Department, where he lived with his family at the time.

“While our grief recedes with time and our lives move on in different ways and directions, our resolve and the memories of love friends, co-workers and family will never wane,” said Cold Spring Harbor Fire Chief of Department Daniel Froehlich.

The brothers both served as members of the 9/11 Committee which has worked for more than two years to erect the monument. In May 2016, the 17-foot by 4-foot artifact from World Trade Center Tower One’s 62nd floor was transported from where it was stored at John F. Kennedy Airport out to the Town of Huntington Recycling Center for safekeeping while plans for the memorial were finalized.

“Now 17 years later, think about whether we’ve slipped back into everydayness.”
– Tom Suozzi

Volunteers started constructing the memorial in the fall of 2017, featuring the nearly 18,000-pound beam in a shape reminiscent of a cross being lowered into the ground Sept. 9. Three saplings grown from offshoots of the Callery pear tree that endured the 9/11 attacks, called the “Survivor Tree,” were planted around the memorial with a plaque to explain their significance.

“When you look at it don’t forget the anguish and loss, but don’t forget about the other things this symbolizes, the strength and resilience of spirit,” said Greg Cergol, husband of Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) and master of ceremonies. “Those are the things that unite and define us as Americans.”

The keynote address was given by U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) who recalled his own desire to help in response to 9/11 in his position as mayor of Glen Gove and visit to ground zero. He questioned if Americans were losing the focus and sense of community that united them in the days that followed.

“Now 17 years later, think about whether we’ve slipped back into everydayness,” Suozzi said. “Love matters. Forgiveness matters. Our friends, our families and our communities matter.”

After a moment of silence was held for the 9/11 victims, the Martin family rang the bell of Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department five times each in four intervals. It’s part of a long-held tradition in the fire department that signals the last alarm of a firefighter who has answered his or her last call.

by -
0 1038
Meaghan Tyrrell shoots and scores one of her five goals in Mount Sinai's 13-12 overtime loss to Cold Spring Habor. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Despite being down six goals at halftime, junior Emma Tyrrell said she kept repeating to herself: “we couldn’t just give up.”

Scoring five goals in four minutes, Mount Sinai’s girls lacrosse team mounted a comeback that turned a 9-3 deficit into an eventual 12-12 tie, but a Cold Spring Harbor goal late in the second period of sudden-death overtime knocked the Mustangs out of the playoffs in the Long Island Class C championship game at Islip High School June 3.

Mount Sinai’s Camryn Harloff shoots through traffic. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Knowing it was now or never, Tyrrell made a highlight-reel play when she raced past the right side of the cage and scored a behind-the-back shot that started the string of goals. She said it was a play she’d been practicing putting into effect all season.

“I had no idea I was going to do it, until it just happened,” she said. “The funny thing is that just before the game started [coach Al Bertolone] told me that he finally trusts me to take that shot. So when the time came, I had the confidence.”

She scored twice in two minutes, which bookended a Camryn Harloff goal. Both of Tyrell’s scores started with sophomore Jenny Markey (one goal, four assists) winning possession off the draw.

“We were finally getting the momentum to get back at them and be the better team,” Markey said. “I was nervous on the draw, but ready. I knew what the girl guarding me was looking to do, but once I started getting the hang of it I got more comfortable as the game went on.”

She earned more possession time on the next two faceoffs, which led to her scoring a free position goal and passing to Harloff (three goals, one assist) for a good goal on her second to pull Mount Sinai within one, 9-8, with 16:11 left in regulation.

Jenny Markey grabs possession of the ball off the draw. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Markey said seeing Tyrrell’s goal fueled her team’s fire.

“It got everyone going,” she said. “After that goal, the whole feeling changed.”

For a team that usually doesn’t celebrate after scoring, the girls lit up, shouting and jumping toward one another. Senior Meaghan Tyrrell (five goals, one assist), Emma’s older sister, said her heart skipped a beat with each goal scored. Fittingly, the team’s top offensive threat tallied the first two and final three goals of the game. She scooped up a ground ball in the eight-minute mark and forced a turnover with a stick check at the six-minute mark. Both moves led to her last two game-tying goals in what became a back-and-forth battle.

“Knowing how important each goal was to determine the rest of our season made us more excited,” she said. “With every one that went in that celebration had to be done at a more extreme level. Our team’s resiliency is unlike any other team I’ve ever seen before. Seeing our team perform how it did to get back into the game was astounding, and I’m so proud to be associated with that kind of team.”

Losing seven seniors to graduation, Emma Tyrell said the remaining players will use the loss as motivation to make the push next year.

“As sad as it is moving on from this season, I’m excited to start preparing,” she said. “Since the beginning our team has been all about hard work and grit — that was definitely shown in the second half of the game. We never have, and we never will give up.”

From left, Museum Executive Director Nomi Dayan, Museum Board President Patricia Aitken, Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman, Councilwoman Joan Cergol, Town Historian Robert Hughes, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and John Newkirk from The WG Pomeroy Foundation. Photo from Whaling Museum

MAKING HISTORY 

In a time when most towns are losing their historic significance as older buildings get torn down for newer, modern designs, the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling museum received recognition from the Pomeroy Foundation for their 1894 offices, on May 11. 

The reception saw townspeople, board members, and museumgoers, as well as many of Huntington’s town leaders, and representatives from Senator Gillibrand’s office come out for the unveiling. Following speeches, Joan Lowenthal, one of the museum’s interpreters, led the crowd on a walking tour through Cold Spring Harbor Village, highlighting the many historic structures along the way.

“It’s amazing coming to work every day in such a special piece of history, while we work on history programming,” explains Assistant Director Cindy Grimm. “It really makes you appreciate how fortunate we are to have these structures standing today; in fact most of Cold Spring Harbor is the same as it was in the 1850 whaling boom.” 

The Captain James Wright house was built in 1894 for the coastwise captain, who also fought in the civil war and was a Huntington town constable. When he died at home after a short illness in 1923, his daughter, Eva (who was the operator of the first telegraph in Cold Spring and later a librarian at the Cold Spring Harbor Library), remained in the home until she sold it to the Whaling Museum in 1956. It was partially rented out until the 1980s, when the museum moved its offices to the building.

For more information, call 631-367-3418.

Pastor Gideon Pollach, of St. John's Church, and Denice Evans-Sheppard at Jones Cemetery. Photo from Town of Huntington

Huntington Town officials are seeking the public’s help in putting back together forgotten pieces of African-American history in Cold Spring Harbor.

Located off the east side of Harbor Road, there is a small plot of town-owned land that’s only known as Jones Cemetery. Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes said it is named after the Jones family that owned extensive pieces of land in the area in both the current towns of Huntington and Oyster Bay through the 20th century. They’re also famous for starting Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Company.

“We knew he was most likely buried at that cemetery. We could not find it. There was a lot of brush covering up the graves and headstones.”

—Denice Evans-Shepard

Hughes said he believes most, if not all of those buried in the cemetery are African-Americans who once worked for the Jones family — some as slaves.

“The Jones Cemetery is one of 56 historic cemeteries located throughout the Town of Huntington,” Hughes said. “Unfortunately, many have become overgrown over the years. Other priorities often take precedence over cemetery cleanups.”

Hughes, Huntington’s director of minority affairs Kevin Thorbourne and volunteers from St. John’s Church in Cold Spring Harbor cleaned up the cemetery grounds March 3. Their work revealed about three dozen graves marked only by simple field stones and two traditional marble headstones.

One of the marked headstone is for Alfred Thorn, an African-American who worked for Charles Jones, and then Oliver Jones as a coachman. Thorn died Feb. 3, 1900, at age 55. The other marble headstone is for Patience Thorn, who is believed to be Alfred’s mother, according to Hughes. The identities of the three dozen others buried in the cemetery are unknown.

Denice Evans-Sheppard, the new director of the Oyster Bay Historic Society, said she has reason to believe one of her ancestors is buried in Jones Cemetery.

“It’s like finding the missing piece to the puzzle,” she said.

Evans-Sheppard said growing up she was told her family originally worked on the Jones family estate. Her great-great-great-grandfather, Lewis Carll, once worked as one of the coachman for the Jones family. He’s the only member of her family not buried in Oyster Bay, according to Evans-Sheppard.

“To to learn who was buried at Jones Cemetery will help us put the missing pieces of Huntington’s history back together.”

— Chad Lupinacci

“We knew he was most likely buried at that cemetery,” she said. “We could not find it. There was a lot of brush covering up the graves and headstones.”

She was invited to tour the grounds with Gideon Pollach, pastor of St. John’s Church; Hughes and Thorbourne after the cleanup March 7.

“It was beautiful to finally make that connection,” she said.

Evans-Sheppard said she knows some descendants of other African-American families who worked for the Jones, including the Jacksons, the Seamans and her own, the Carlls. Many related individuals still live in nearby areas of Huntington, Oyster Bay and Amityville, she said. 

Along with Huntington Town officials, Evans-Sheppard is hoping families will step forward to help identify their remains.

“The Town of Huntington has a rich history of contributions from the African-American community, and to learn who was buried at Jones Cemetery will help us put the missing pieces of Huntington’s history back together,” said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) in a statement.

Anyone with information on individuals who may be interred in the cemetery is encouraged to contact Hughes at 631-351-3244 or email at [email protected]tonny.gov

GoFundMe campaign seeks to raise money to help firefighter's family recover from tragedy

Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department members Adrian Benvenuti and his family. Photo from GoFundMe.

Cold Spring Harbor firefighters found themselves in the difficult position of having to rush to the aid of one of their own.

Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department responded to a fire alarm at approximately 9:49 p.m. Feb. 2 on Main Street. Upon their arrival, firefighters under the direction of Captain Brendan Fitts were able to quickly extinguish a fire in the closet of the home’s second-floor master bedroom, according to spokesman Steve Silverman.

The Main Street home is owned by Adrian Benvenuti, a 15-year member of the Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department and ex-assistant chief. Benvenuti was able to safely get his three young children out of the house during the fire, Silverman said. His wife, Brenna, was not at home at the time of the fire.

While damage to the residence was limited, Silverman said that the Benvenuti family is expected to be displaced from their home for about three months due to water and smoke damage.

Lieutenant Daniel Martin, a paramedic with the fire department, launched a GoFundMe page to help raise funds to aid the Benvenuti family. At the time of this publication, more than $4,500 of the $10,000 goal has been raised.

Several community members have posted words of encouragement and support on the GoFundMe page including “Cold Spring Harbor strong.” There were several offers of help from both individuals and local business.

The fundraiser for Adrian Benvenuti and his family can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/benvenuti-family-fire-relief-fund.

By Kevin Redding

As the nation sinks its teeth into another annual Shark Week on Discovery Channel, local fishermen from across the North Shore reflected on their experiences and close calls with the predators of the sea.

Capt. James Schneider, James Joseph Fishing in Huntington

Capt. James Schneider wrestles with a mako shark. Photo from James Schneider

I was giant bluefin tuna fishing on our smaller, 38-foot boat around 2004 and we were off Nantucket and we pulled up on a whale. Usually the tuna swim with the whales, they eat the same bait. And we saw what looked like giant tuna and we threw a bunch of bait into the water and put three lines in. All three rods went off at the same time and we hooked up what we thought were three tuna fish at the same time for a minute. Within 10 seconds of the hookup, the first fish jumped behind the boat … it was a 650-pound mako shark that got in between the other two lines. The other “tuna fish” were a 250-pound blue shark and another mako. We were using monofilament leaders for the tuna, and the mako came down on the line and snapped the leader (fishing line). Then the shark jumped above our eye level and cleared the water 12 to 15 feet, leaped completely out of the water trying to throw the hook out of its mouth. The other one we … caught it, after an hour and a half, it was a mako that was nearly 700 pounds, snagged in the dorsal, he’s swimming, felt a lot like a tuna fish. We put it in the boat and it was on the line for about an hour and half and then we gutted it and found about nine, full-sized bluefish intact in stomach, each weighing between 8 and 13 pounds.

Another time, I was out 17 miles south of Montauk with my son when he was 8 years old. I wanted to catch my son his first shark. We went out, my son caught a mako shark pretty early in the trip. Within 20 minutes of him hanging the shark from the stern of the boat, I noticed a giant shape coming toward the boat and it was a great white shark, about 17-18 feet long, probably close to 3,000 pounds — about the width of a Volkswagen. It was cruising with such agility coming right to the boat and we had a little time so I asked my son, “Do you want your shark or do you want to watch the great white eat the shark?” My son quickly decided he wanted his shark to show his grandparents so we whipped the shark into the boat just in time as the great white came up to the stern.

Capt. Brett Clifford, Osprey Fishing Fleet in Port Jefferson

Take a bite out of Shark Week, Long Island edition. Photo from Brett Clifford

My 11-year-old son, Kieran, was excited to go shark fishing for the first time so he, myself and one of the first mates from the Osprey trailed my 25-foot Aquasport to Montauk last Wednesday, July 19. We launched there after catching some fluke, went out about 20 miles to the sharking grounds and we drifted for about five hours with very little action. My son got a chance to see a sea turtle, which was kind of cool. A mahi-mahi was on the lure for a couple minutes but we eventually lost him. All hope seemed lost and we brought in one line and then when Kieran was reeling in the last line, the float popped up and we weren’t sure if it was a wave or a shark. I picked up the line and felt little bumps, put the rod back in the holder as Kieran safely put his hand on the line so he could feel the bumps. He felt them and he looked up at me and then the shark took it and the line went off. He was able to feel the power of the shark and how fast it takes a line like that. We hooked the shark, put the rod in Kieran’s lap and had him start fighting it. It took him about 15 to 20 minutes to bring in about a 5-foot mako. Although it was a keeper, we clipped it and let it go. We put one more bait in the water and it was then immediately picked up by a blue shark, which we released. I’ve caught makos, blue sharks and thresher sharks before [but] nothing can compare to watching your own son’s excitement and feel the thrill of a big game fish like that for the first time, so that totally trumps any other shark experiences I’ve had.

Capt. Steve Witthuhn, Top Hook Fishing Charters in Montauk and frequenter of Cold Spring Harbor

A hammerhead shark swims right up to a boat. Photo from Steve Witthuhn

There’s a lot of bait and life out there in Montauk so it’s one of the more exceptional years for this. That’s the fishing capital of the world and you’re bound to catch something there. We had a trip Friday, July 21, where we took a father and his two boys out to an area 12 miles across Montauk Point and I saw signs of life viewing whales and dolphins in the area. There was also a sea turtle — it was like an aquarium over there. We decided to set up there and we got the baits ready, using circle hooks, and started chumming — what we call “drifting and dreaming.” You get things out there and you’re waiting for the bite and dreaming of when that shark comes into the slick and looks for the bait. Our first hit was a 150-pound blue shark and that got things rolling. The next was a 125-pound dusky.

As we’re getting another blue shark off the line, we see a big hammerhead shark swim by. Hammerheads are very finicky, sometimes they take a slab bait but normally I’ve found them to be aggressive, they want live bait. So as we hooked up a live bluefish, the bluefish got excited and started running for its life because the hammerhead was on its tail. He tore it apart. We started playing with him and put some more bluefish on the line when we saw another hammerhead come into the slick. Talk about shark-infested waters, we were in the right place at the right time. We hooked up one of the hammerheads, about a 6 or 7 footer, and we fought it for about a half hour. It ate the live bluefish and then another hammerhead appeared. Once the action starts, everybody wakes up. Once you hear that rod go “zzzzing” then everybody jumps up and wants to see what kind of shark it is. It was pretty wild.

All these sharks were caught and then released. For me as a captain, it’s more about the thrill of the catch rather than the kill of the catch. If we can respect nature then we can have a lot of fun and educate our customers. I told them, “I know Shark Week begins in a few days, but you’re experiencing something live and what it’s all about.” I’m all for respecting and preserving the resource.